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Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa (concussion) ruled out for playoff game vs. Bills

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa remains in the league's concussion protocol and has been ruled out for Sunday's Super Wild Card Weekend matchup against the Buffalo Bills, Miami head coach Mike McDaniel announced Wednesday.

"As of today, Tua has not been cleared by doctors to resume football activities on the field with his teammates, so because of that and because of the time that he's missed, I can rule him out for Sunday," McDaniel said.

Tagovailoa, who was placed in the league's protocol on Dec. 26, missed Miami's final two games of the regular season.

Tagovailoa's absence now leaves the Dolphins with two options under center: veteran Teddy Bridgewater and rookie Skylar Thompson. With Bridgewater still working his way back from a finger injury suffered in the Dolphins' Week 17 matchup versus the Patriots, McDaniel said the Dolphins are preparing as if Thompson will be their starter on Sunday.

"His biggest thing is that he knew he had to be in a position where he had to be fully functional on Sunday, that took some strain, and really just some guts and work ethic," McDaniel said of Bridgewater. "That's not an easy thing to do, and as it stands right now, he's working to prepare himself to be capable on Sunday. But as a result of that, he can't afford any setbacks or really anything that's conflicting against the healing process in the week.

"As a result, we will be approaching the game today, the Wednesday game, as Skylar Thompson as our starting quarterback."

Things could change at quarterback by the time Sunday arrives. Bridgewater could improve enough to be able to go, which would increase Miami's chances of success in a daunting matchup against a Bills team many believe have the chance to reach Super Bowl LVII.

In order for Bridgewater to return in time for Miami's meeting with Buffalo, he can't suffer any setbacks in practice, McDaniel said. That's not all.

"It's him communicating, and he's got to be able to rip it in time to be able to get some work with his teammates, but that's not even really his objective," McDaniel said. "With this timeline, he's really focusing on being able to come through if needed, because he knows on the front end he's not going to be able to get that many reps, if any, so it's him building and bottom line is if we're in the situation on Sunday and we need him to play and he says he can play, my relationship with him and what he's earned, the trust that I have for him, if he says he can roll he can roll."

If Bridgewater can't play, it will be up to Thompson to lead the Dolphins to victory. To this point, Thompson hasn't proven himself worthy of confidence he'll be able to do so, completing 57.1 percent of his passes for 534 yards with a 1-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio and a meager passer rating of 62.2. He did, however, help Miami to a win in a low-scoring, grind-it-out affair against the Jets in Week 18 that put the Dolphins in the playoffs.

The news regarding Tagovailoa is disappointing, but not surprising. Tagovailoa has been in and out of the lineup on multiple occasions this season due to injuries, with two concussions shifting the Dolphins' focus from getting him back on the field to just making sure he'll be OK over the long haul.

"I'm just thinking about his day, and him getting to full health as a human being," McDaniel said, "and then when it's time to turn the page, I'll turn the page, but I'm pretty over integrity and principle to a fault, and stubborn as all get-out, so if I hear that's the way that I should approach it I will approach it that way, and I do not deviate. So, the next step is really for him to be fully through this protocol, and then we can see where the land lays, so to speak, but outside of that, I'm just worried about him."

McDaniel said Tagovailoa has learned his status is somewhat out of his control, leading to frustration for the quarterback, who was in the MVP conversation before he was forced out of action. Tagovailoa understandably wants to be able to contribute to his team's efforts toward winning a Super Bowl, but also knows rushing himself through any part of the process wouldn't be wise.

"I would say it's conflicting," McDaniel said of Tagvailoa's reaction to the news. "He himself is learning that he needs to listen to the advice of doctors and medical professionals, he understands the severity of doing that, so there's a little bit of things that he can't control. You know, he was an incredible part of the entire season, I think eight of our wins were as a result of him playing quarterback amongst the team, and that did not come because it was just gifted, that was a lot of work and preparation, so it's very frustrating, much as a lot of things in life and football are, but it's very frustrating for him to not be able to go through everything with his teammates.

"And really, it was a huge goal of his to get this team to the playoffs, and he wants to play in the playoffs. There's nothing more fun than playoff football, and he really finds normal football fun, so very conflicting, I would say, but understands that it's in his best interest that the doctors and medical professionals are seeking, and respects and regards that, so that's about it."

Instead of suiting up this weekend, Tagovailoa will do his best to support his teammates as a spectator. He'll hope his fellow Dolphins can get the job done without him, at least for the time being.

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